North Americans and Europeans stand out in Chile for a number of reasons. One of the most prominent reasons is the way they dress. Americans tend to be particularly sloppy, according to Chilean standards, wearing sweat pants (for instance) outside of the gymnasium. They also go out with wrinkled clothing and wear notably bright colors that may not even match. A Chilean never wants to draw attention to himself by the way he looks, smells, how loud he speaks, or by what he says (especially if it shows rudeness, lack of education or culture). Chileans seek to be accepted and loved by everyone; included in the group and appreciated. In Chile, people want to present themselves as respectable, if not put on airs, when they are seen in public. Boisterous Argentines are, for example, intolerable for their speech. No Chilean would want to be like an arrogant Argentine. They want to appear humble instead, and they do so by making saying many nouns in forma diminuitiva (that is, ending in –ito or –ita). Chileans pick on certain dress standards as well, and have adopted a number of odd prejudices or beliefs. They have a slang expression, a lo gringo, which means that one goes without underwear. While it is not clear why they think that North Americans (or Europeans) do not wear underwear, they must have got the impression at some point from somewhere. And Chileans do not want to go out into the world a lo gringo. [Image source]

     I have commented beforehand on certain requirements for women’s clothing to avoid being considered “slutty” or low class, but men normally get off much easier with far less scrutiny. In most formal or business events, a man’s attire is basically the same: a dark suit with a light shirt and a decent tie. But beware of using sport coats and slacks (called an ambo outfit in Chile). If you show up to a formal event, such as a wedding, with a sport coat you will likely be the only one there that has one on. Chilean men by and large do not wear them. They wear full, dark suits. The ones with no suits or who only have a shirt and tie on, are typically lower class people who do not normally wear a suit or even own one. The same thing holds true in most business events. The only time one might see a man wearing a sport coat is when he is teaching a class at the university, mainly in some hippy or artsy discipline–although full suits are far more common in some faculties, too–and perhaps some informal events. (Note that most university professors that I have seen do not wear a coat and tie of any kind.) Low-level professional posts also might exhibit men with sport coats, but you will be hard-pressed to find businessmen, lawyers, accountants and bankers wearing one. At any rate, if you want to play it safe in formal events and meetings, stick to full dark suits that will be appropriate in any setting.
     On a related note, one will never see a Chilean man (other than workers in agriculture, fishing or mining which require very durable clothing and lots of washing) that wears blue jeans or khaki pants to work, as is common in the Northern Hemisphere. Chilean men prefer darker slacks in general. Light colored pants and jeans are for the beach, parties, recreation, etc., or might even be associated with homosexuals in some settings. I do see khaki pants worn by fellow professors at casual events, so there is some informal use of such clothing even in some business settings. But they are hardly the norm. Sneakers, tennis shoes and boots are not seen worn by people working in offices either. Dark leather or leather-like shoes are commonplace. Even on hot days, shorts are worn by virtually no one in the city other than kids, a few college students, men on their way to the gym or foreigners. Obviously you will see them worn at the beach. Otherwise, wearing shorts in town will be a clear giveaway that you are not Chilean.
     If you simply do not care, and will not in any circumstance conform to some ridiculous Chilean dress standards or customs, fine. No one will hold it against you. Gringos get a pass on most anything, other than farting or burping in public. However, nonconformity in dress will identify you as a gringo, which may or may not be convenient or the best situation for you in public. Think about it. When in Rome it may be better to do as the Romans do.

     Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations. Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can login at You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the link provided on the ORN website (recorded show updated every Monday morning). Be sure, too, to visit for discussion and forums about the country.
     Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost ever topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service (see, where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49. If you have problems getting the book through the site, since the ORN Store is sometimes closed for maintenance, please use the PayPal info noted below.
     Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago. Note: If the link to buy the book at the site does not appear, since the ORN Store is sometimes closed for maintenance, just send US$39 by PayPal to and send an email or PayPal notice that you have completed your order. A download link will be sent to you directly. 

    The website also has Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), or the little book can also be obtained directly by following the aforementioned PayPal steps.